Buy Low, Sell High

Janet LA Kawchuk

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Janet LA Kawchuk

#Edmonton writer

A blood-curdling scream didn't even begin to describe the sustained shrill that erupted from the potential buyer's throat. Thinking no commission was worth suffering a heart attack, Jacob ascended the rickety stairs two at a time.

"Are you okay?"

Frazzled eyes met his and for a brief second, he too wanted to scream. From some bygone workshop, a mantra of "just breathe" popped into his head in jittery repetition. He summoned a deep breath moving slowly toward the closet where Mrs. Stone was pointing. It wasn't really a closet, per se, but a crawl space under the deeply sloped roof of the wartime house. The flat wooden door hung precariously on one hinge, a repair he'd have to make before showing the house the next time. He creaked the door open gingerly and once the light caught the object, he jumped back, losing his composure. "Just breathe" doesn't apply when one is slapped with a horror-inducing vintage pram. How had he missed it on the realtors' open house? In fact, how had all the other realtors missed it too?

"I'm sure the previous owners mistakenly left it here," he soothed.

"Well, obviously you'll have to take it out of here."

"Right. No problem." Jacob leaned over to enter the space, grabbed the pram handle and backed it out of the closet. He heard a gasp as Mrs. Stone instinctively backed away. She was wagging her finger at the pram again, but this time, she was pointing at a doll tucked into a pale-yellow blanket. They both peered into the pram, hardly able to comprehend what they saw. The doll was hideous in its expression, a grimace that would startle the calmest mind. It was dressed in a dusty pink, knit dress and although the plastic face was meant to be smiling, the cheeks were contorted and the gaze was seemingly too direct. This was not a comforting toy. It was a ghoul, an apparition in the flesh, well, in this case, plastic.

"Okay, okay, um, listen. Can we go outside to discuss this? Until I opened that door, I was set to make you an offer on this house." Mrs. Stone's voice got tinier as the sentence drew on.

"Of course. No, for sure. Let's go sit on the deck outside and we can chat about your offer."

That night, sipping his favourite merlot, he couldn't believe his luck. He had actually sold the old house, with the condition that he would get rid of the pram and the monster within it. An easy thing to agree to if it meant making the sale. Of course, Mrs. Stone had used the shock of the discovery and twisted it to her advantage until his client agreed to a price a good $5000 less than their bottom line. Somehow, she convinced them that, if the pram was missed, there were likely other issues and the next buyer wouldn't overlook them.

Mrs. Stone was proud that she'd become a staunch negotiator and this house buying and flipping thing was really panning out. Months after the incident with the pram in that old wartime house, she was flipping her third property. The sellers' market was ripe for the taking and who was she to ignore every tiny detail that could be used to save her thousands? In fact, after the little wartime house she'd bought last April, she'd waded out on her own, proudly advertising her houses as "for sale by owner."

This latest house she wanted to acquire had been a bit of a challenge, though. It was a tidy grey starter home on a treed street close to the centre. She and the owners had counter-offered back and forth four times already. She'd agreed to another viewing, the owners hoping she'd realize the actual value of the house and settle on a fair price.

She flustered around her house, looking for her keys, her sunglasses, and finally, her gloves. Partway down her street, she slammed on the brakes. There was something she'd forgotten. She pulled into the driveway and climbed her stairs. Reaching into her vintage-treasure closet, she felt around for the one that suited the little grey house the best. She grabbed a china-faced blond with painted cheeks and gleaming eyes, one of which didn't fully open. Brushing off the floral fabric and the glossy black hair, she slammed the doll into a cloth bag. She didn't want to be late for this viewing, as punctuality, among other things, was a valuable bargaining chip.

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